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Stories from the surgery: why e-cigarette nicotine is dangerous for cats and dogs

Stories from the surgery: why e-cigarette nicotine is dangerous for cats and dogs

Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner explores the toxic effects that e-cigarettes can have on your pets.

As more people have turned from smoking cigarettes to ‘vaping’ e-cigarettes, many households now have the devices lying around in places where cats and dogs can easily access them. Unfortunately, e-cigarettes can cause some serious health problems for your pets if they start chewing on them.

It is mostly dogs that end up with poisoning from e-cigarette nicotine and the liquid refill solution, but the devices are also toxic to cats.

What makes e-cigarettes toxic to pets?

Most of the risk of poisoning for animals is from ingesting the e-liquid itself, which contains high levels of nicotine. The issue is that the amount of nicotine in each cartridge contains the equivalent of one to two traditional cigarettes.

The sweet aroma of the liquid nicotine contained in e-cigarettes can be alluring to dogs, and the non-tobacco flavoured e-cigarettes can be particularly enticing. If packets of refill cartridges are left lying around the house and your pet chews them, they might end up consuming a very large amount of nicotine (especially as these packets usually contain five refill cartridges).

As well as the toxicity of nicotine, the actual e-cigarette casing could cause an injury to your pet’s mouth when chewed. It could also cause gastrointestinal upset, with the risk of obstructing the intestine.

Some e-cigarette users buy vials of liquid nicotine solution for refilling e-cigarette cartridges. The small bottles hold enough liquid to fill multiple cartridges, meaning they contain a considerable amount of nicotine.

Signs of nicotine poisoning in cats and dogs

Pets can react to nicotine poisoning very quickly, generally within 15 to 60 minutes following ingestion.

Signs of toxicity in both cats and dogs include agitation, weakness, tremors, blue colouration to mouth and gums, vomiting, diarrhoea, elevations in heart rate and respiration rate, seizures, comas and cardiac arrest.

What to do if a pet is showing signs of nicotine poisoning

If you suspect your pet has ingested nicotine, or any component of an e-cigarette, take them to your vet as soon as possible. Getting veterinary care is essential due to the speed at which nicotine poisoning can occur following ingestion.

The best thing you can do is to prevent the risk of poisoning in the first place. Keep all e-cigarettes, cartridges and vials of refilling solution out of the reach of pets and children.

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